Sand volleyball becomes Division I varsity sport
Arizona is adding sand volleyball to its repertoire of Division I varsity sports. It will be the 20th Division I program at the UA when it debuts in spring 2014, led by indoor volleyball associate head coach Steve Walker.
“It’s great. It brings another aspect of volleyball to the UA athletic department,” indoor volleyball head coach Dave Rubio said in a phone interview with the Arizona Daily Wildcat. “It really impacts the indoor team in a very positive way and its addition will make it [the UA] more attractive for recruits.”
Rubio said that athletic director Greg Byrne tasked him with finding the team’s inaugural head coach, and he settled on Walker because “he was the best candidate” in terms of his ability and experience in recruiting and running a program. Walker spent two years as the head indoor volleyball coach at UC Davis from 2006-07, and will no longer be a member of the indoor staff.
Rubio expects “probably about six to eight players” from the indoor team will be participating with the sand volleyball team.
Arizona will have six scholarships that can be split among more than six players. Teams typically consist of 14 women.
Arizona plans to join the Pac-12 conference, where four schools — UCLA, California, Stanford and USC — currently have a Division I sand volleyball program. In order to be a Pac-12 sport, according to Rubio, there need to be six teams, a number he expects the tournament will reach by 2014.
The UA isn’t the only prominent university to add sand volleyball in recent weeks, as Nebraska announced its addition on Jan. 9.
In order to be an officially sponsored NCAA championship sport, there need to be 40 competing schools in two consecutive seasons.
In 2011, Pepperdine defeated Long Beach State in the inaugural national championship game.
”This is an exciting day for the University of Arizona and our volleyball program,” Byrne said in a press release. “With our strengths as an athletics department — including strong indoor volleyball, great interest from our fans and weather that is very conducive to outdoor activity — it’s a natural fit for us.”